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History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers

Whenever we hear a story about a man going wild on a killing spree, it irks our attention. The early 20th century saw some of the most deadly serial killers, and the fascination around them has grown ever since. But why did they involve in such heinous acts, let’s cast a light on some factors that we believe affected directly or indirectly. 

Serial Killers: Born or Made?

The term ‘serial killer’ was first coined by Robert Ressler, an investigator with the Behavioral Science Unit of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Serial killers are more than what they seem on the surface, they are more than just murderers, they too were once children and may even have an explanation for their actions.


Nature vs. Nurture

The question of whether serial killers are born or made has always been interesting for psychologists and behavioral researchers to discuss and answer. The childhood traumas and experiences that a person encounters are what make or break a person but to what extent, is fascinating to uncover. 

Traumatic Childhood

Serial killers like Ted Bundy, Edmund Kemper, Henry Lee Lucas, and Charles Manson all suffered from traumatic experiences and toxic parental relationships while growing up, which contributed to how they eventually turned out. People who have grown up in abusive households are often susceptible to developing mental health disorders. 

The ‘Serial Killer’ Genes

The genes MAOA and CDH13 are notoriously known as the ‘serial killer genes’. Even though many serial killers carry these genes, they are not the only driving factor. According to a study led by Professor Jari Tiihonen which examined 895 Finnish offenders, only 5-10% of all severe violent crime in Finland is attributable to the MAOA and CDH13 genotypes.

So, What’s the Verdict?

Even though MAOA and CDH13 genes could be a factor that allows serial killers to think without empathy, what drives them and motivates them to commit such an act depends on their development and otherwise the environment in which they have grown up. The most common factor among all serial killers is their neglected and abused childhood.  

Here’s a list of some of history’s most notorious serial killers.

Ted Bundy

Image: Crime Museum 

America’s most infamous criminal of all times, Bundy confessed to the murder of over 36 women in the 1970s and was executed in the electric chair in Florida.  He used to lure women into his car by pretending to be injured. While he confirmed 36 murders, authorities believe the final tally to be closer to 100 or even more.

Henry Lee Lucas

Image: Medium 

He was made a ‘star’ by the media as he confessed to murdering around 600 people which all turned out to be hoax testimonies. Eventually, he was convicted for 11 murders including one of his own mother. His trial was one of the biggest, involving a lot of controversies around it that grabbed worldwide attention. 

Edmund Kemper

Image: Biography 

Also known as ‘The Co-Ed Killer’, Kemper killed 6 young women and his mother in the 1970s. When he was just 15, he killed both his grandparents to “see what it felt like”. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic as well as criminally insane by Atascadero State Hospital and received eight concurrent life sentences. 

Charles Manson

Image: Times Magazine 

Manson was the founder of a cult that went by the name of ‘The Manson Family’, which claimed him to be God. He believed that the song “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles had a hidden message warning everyone about a race war. Even though he never killed anyone himself, he orchestrated around 35 killings and was later sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Jack The Ripper

Image: Film Daily

One of the biggest unsolved mysteries of English history, the unidentified murderer killed at least five women. While dozens of other murders are speculated to be committed by him. He killed these victims by mutilating their bodies in such a way that the authorities believed it was someone who knew human anatomy well. Today, many of his murder sites have become tourist attraction spots.

Needless to say, the genetic make-up or the childhood of a person is in no way an excuse to justify the acts committed by them, but it does provide us an insight into their behavior and thinking pattern. 

Want to know more? Watch the following TV Series and Documentaries:

  • Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes – Netflix
  • The Confession Killer – Netflix
  • Mindhunter – Netflix
  • Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile
  • The Ripper – Netflix

Comment down below and let us know about other serial killers that you think should be on the list.

Written by Dhanya Chawla

Cover Image: Medium 

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